This morning I snapped this photo near the Jesmond Grove aged care home. The Wallsend tram line used to curve through what is now a grass lawn. What’s interesting about this location is there’s a parchmark to be found.
A parchmark is where under the right climatic circumstances, the drying out of vegetation can reveal structures under the surface when viewed in an aerial photograph. So the October 2014 image from Google Earth shows a clear curved line of the former tram line.
I’ve been doing pretty well at getting out for a cycle before each working day. I only missed last Thursday, when it was pouring rain. Here’s a photo I took this morning in Jesmond Park to pair up with a circa 1950 photo from the University of Newcastle Living Histories site.
This is the spot that the Rankin Park to Jesmond bypass will go. (If it ever gets built.)
Tram services in Newcastle began in July 1887 with the opening of the Newcastle to Wallsend line. Other areas wanted a piece of the action and immediately began agitating for extensions to the tram line. In October 1887, Adamstown Council sent a deputation to Sydney asking for a line to their municipality, but it took another decade of lobbying before the Government finally approved the Adamstown line.
Seventy years on, with passenger numbers on Newcastle’s light rail exceeding forecasts in its first year of operation, who knows, maybe we will one day see a return of trams to our suburbs?
The article above was first published in the April 2020 edition of The Local.
One piece of information that I deliberately excluded from the published article, to keep it simple, was that the main shopping street of Adamstown that we now know as Brunker Rd, was originally called Union St. A real estate poster from 1921 shows the tram line running along Brunker Rd to the terminus at the Public School. South of Glebe Rd, the roadway narrows and becomes Union St.
“Prior to its being widened, Union street, with a roadway of only 30ft, was long regarded as dangerous for traffic … The roadway [now] is 42ft wide and the footpaths 12ft, the total width being 66ft. To widen the street, it was necessary to resume a strip of land 18ft deep on the western side, and the buildings were either demolished, and new ones erected, or they were moved back to the new alignment.”
I haven’t been able to confirm when exactly Union St was changed to be an extension of Brunker Rd, however a search of Trove reveals that the Union St name seems to disappear around 1949.
The end of trams
The view that it was competition from the motor buses that killed off the tram system is starkly presented in a commemorative postcard from 1950 which stated …
Born 5 July 1887. Died 10 June 1950. 63 years old. R.I.P. In rememberance of Newcastle’s trams, which were finally suffocated by the deisel ‘buses.
(Note that the dates in the postcard are slightly off – the Wallsend line opened for public traffic on 19 July 1887, and the last tram ran on the Waratah line on 11 June 1950.)
"The announcement in yesterday's 'Herald' that the Government had agreed to construct the tramway from Broadmeadow to Adamstown has given great satisfaction to residents and the public generally. The survey for the tramline was made five years ago."
"The plans and book of reference are now open for inspection at the office of the Minister for Public Works for the line of tramway authorised to be constructed from Newcastle to Adamstown. All persons who may be interested in the lands through which the line will run are required to lodge any objections on or before the 26th inst."
"The amount of work that the tramway extension from Broadmeadow to Adamstown will provide has caused considerable disappointment to be felt by the local unemployed, many of whom were more than hoping that the work would be sufficient to enable them to relieve families dependent on them. But there should not have been disappointment, as it was not at any time officially represented that the extension, the length of which is only a mile, covering an easy route, and requiring only simple work, would provide employment for a large number of men."
Construction of Adamstown tramway to be "begun on Monday by the selected men, who will apply pick and shoved to several small hills. At noon to-day Mr. Creer will meet the men at the Broadmeadow waiting shed. About 10 capable men will meet present requirements,."
"The tram extension is proceeding slowly, and now the rails are laid to the municipal boundary of Hamilton and Adamstown. Now that the tramway is nearing completion there are people who argue that the tram terminus will not be in the proper place at the Public School, and that the terminus should be at the Carrington Hall, or down the Glebe-road, near the reserve."
"Many of the local aldermen say that the tram terminus is in the wrong place. The principal objections are
that the tram stands in the centre of the road and starting as it does from a point directly opposite the Primitive Methodist Church door, the whistling annoys the congregation."
"Slowly but surely the antiquated steam tram is disappearing from the streets of Newcastle. The latest section of tramline to have electric overhead wires strung above it is that between Broadmeadow and Adamstown."
"The duplication of the tram line from Melville-road to Adamstown tram terminus has been completed and put into use. Delays which were unavoidable are now overcome, and a faster service established. While the public will appreciate the duplication of the line, the making of the terminal in front of two main business premises, at the intersection of Union-street and Glebe-road, is regretted; in fact, some of the trams make
the stop right across the intersection of Union-street and Glebe-road, which at times is dangerous, carrying traffic four ways, and being the main road to Sydney, with an every day increase of traffic. "
"Newcastle Transport Trust, by allowing the trams to terminate in the middle of Union-street, has defeated
the council's aims, and has created one of the most dangerous spots in the district. Before the street was widened, and before the trams were electrified the terminus was at the public school stop. The steam trams stopped here while the engine shunted across the Glebe-road intersection and back again to couple up with the front portion of the trams for the return to Newcastle. In August, 1925, Alderman Wiggins commenced an agitation to have the bottle-neck eliminated. The work was started in 1928 and the
new widened street opened for traffic at the end of 1929. In the meantime the trams were electrified and the Tramway Department made the terminus right at the intersection. Council agitation caused it to move the terminus further along to the middle of Union-street, which was very unsatisfactory to the council. At present the tram loiters here, in the middle of the council's' parking area. If vehicles park at shops on
either side of the tram and stay there for any length of time, traffic is completely held up."
"The suggested abolition of Adamstown tram service was not received very favourably in that suburb yesterday, though in some quarters it was thought that an adequate omnibus service might meet demands, particularly during the slack hours. While the people of Adamstown, particularly those in the western portion, seek improved transport facilities, any suggestion to abolish the tramway service was criticised."
"Adamstown tram terminus has been extended, not to Rifle-street, but to a point opposite the Mechanics' Institute, just beyond Victoria-street. For many years the terminus was near the intersection of Glebe road and Union-street, but the growing traffic problem and public agitation caused its removal recently to the locality mentioned."
"The State's tram, bus and railway services are, generally, in a grave position, the Auditor General (Mr. Swift) warns the State Government in his annual report … The disconcerting feature is the disproportionate increase of working expenses relative to earnings through the years … the number of passengers carried on buses increased, but there was a decrease in tramway travellers.”
"MR. T. H. GRICE, of Brunker - road, Broadmeadow, 70-year-old former ganger for the Tramways Department, last night fulfilled an ambition when he travelled on the last tram to run from Adamstown to
Newcastle before buses took over the route. Mr. Grice retired from the department almost 10 years ago. He was on the first electric tram to operate on this route, on January 2, 1925."
Since I started working from home, one of the routines I’m trying to keep up is the bicycle commute to ‘work’. So each workday morning I’m still going for a bike ride a similar distance that I would normally do when riding to the office.
Bicycle commuting to a home office means I don’t have to take the same route each day. This morning I went via Jesmond to get this Then and Now photo of the intersection of Illoura St and Newcastle Rd. The old photo is from the Newcastle Uni Living Histories site, and is from the late 1940s.
When is a school not a school? When it’s a vital part of Australia’s wartime defence. When Japan entered World War 2 in December 1941 with the bombing of Pearl Harbour, Australia faced a real threat of aerial attack, and a radar defence system was urgently needed to monitor enemy aircraft movements. A radar commenced service at Shepherds Hill in Newcastle in January 1942, and with the establishment of many other radar stations including Ash Island in the Hunter River and Tomaree Head at Port Stephens, a central headquarters was needed to collate information and direct operations of allied aircraft interceptions.
Consequently, on 10 March 1942, the Minister for Education announced with deliberate vagueness that New Lambton Public School was required “to be used for other purposes” and that students would be distributed over Lambton, Adamstown, Hamilton, and Cardiff schools. The school became the site of RAAF No 2 Fighter Sector, the principal coordination and control unit for radar defence operations in the Williamtown and Newcastle area.
The RAAF occupied the three main school buildings, erected temporary buildings in the playground and converted the headmaster’s residence into the unit HQ. Twenty-four hour operations commenced on 29 March 1942 with 134 staff, including 69 from the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF). The school also became the training base for other radar sector units and at its peak in August 1943 had a total of 268 personnel.
In December 1944 the RAAF transferred operations from New Lambton to the radar station at Ash Island, and in January 1945 handed the school back to the Department of Education. The senior boys and girls returned to the school, but necessary restoration and repairs carried out during 1945 meant that the infants’ classes did not return until the following year. The resumption of all classes at the New Lambton site and remembrance of its important war time role was celebrated with a grand “Back-to-school” gala day on 27 April 1946.
The article above was first published in the March 2020 edition of The Local.
Much of the information for this article I sourced from Peter Muller and John Hutchison’s 1991 book “RAAF Base Williamtown, The First 50 Years”, a copy of which is in Newcastle Library Local Studies section.
The matter has come to a stage that if there is no [new] school there will be no New Lambton children attending other schools.
A temporary infants’ school was subsequently constructed in “Payne’s Paddock” on St James Rd, consisting of 8 classrooms built of wood, and a separate administrative block. The temporary school opened for students on 18 April 1944.
The infants attended the Payne’s Paddock temporary school until April 1946, when the completion of restorations and repairs to the New Lambton school allowed them to resume classes there. The temporary school on St James Rd was closed, but became the site of the New Lambton South Public School, opened on 31 Januuary 1950 with an enrolment of 360 students.
To assist in the accommodation of Womens Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) personnel working at No 2 Fighter Sector, the YMCA opened a hostel, converting a shop and residence on the corner of Hobart and Rugby Roads.
"Pupils from New Lambton Public School are to be distributed over Lambton, Adamstown, Hamilton, and Cardiff schools because their building is to be used for other purposes. This was announced tonight by the Minister for Education (Mr. Clive Evatt). Mr. Evatt said the necessary transport for the children to be picked up from selected points, and taken to their schools, was being arranged."
"Property at the corner of Hobart and Rugby Roads, New Lambton (a shop and residence), has been selected
for the establishment of a leave hostel for the convenience of 'W.A.A.A.Fs' and other service women."
New Lambton Parents and Citizens' Association campaigning for "more satisfactory arrangements for the 900 school children of New Lambton, who are now distributed among the Hamilton, Adamstown, and
Lambton schools. The association last week agreed that a forceful claim should be made for the erection of portable classrooms at New Lambton to accommodate the transferred children."
"For several weeks, Mrs. W. E. Bramble and her daughter, Miss Mary Bramble, have entertained groups of W.A.A.A.F. and R.A.A.F. personnel at their home at Russell-road, New Lambton, on Sunday nights. The number of guests varies, but as many as 80 have attended for tea, and 115 for supper. Mrs. Bramble's chief worry is to secure sufficient tea and sugar to cope with the crowd."
New Lambton Parents and citizens' Association stated "that the proposal to keep New Lambton children away from school was not bluff. The matter has come to a stage that if there is no school there will be no New Lambton children attending other schools."
"The commonwealth Government had provided the funds for the erection of accommodation for an
Infants' school at Payne's Estate. The Government Architect had completed plans and tenders for the work would be invited this week."
Popularly known as Payne's paddock school, New Lambton, these buildings in St. James-road will be "taken over" by the children this morning. Many of the children who will now go to this school have been travelling by bus to Hamilton school since New Lambton Public School was closed.
"A letter Mr. R. Cameron, M.L.A., has received from the Minister for Education (Mr. Heffron) with reference to the department's repossession of New Lambton Public School from the R.A.A.F., indicates that action
has been taken to enable two buildings to be re-occupied by classes after the vacation."
"The Minister for Education, Mr. Heffron, complained yesterday of the way in which the R.A.A.F. had
left New Lambton Public School after they had occupied it … the R.A.A.F. had made structural alterations inside and outside the school. After months of negotiation, he had been unable to get the R.A.A.F. to remove the alterations. Because of this, the infants' part of the school was still unusable."
"Plans are under way for a "Back-to-New Lambton" day, to mark the complete reunion of classes
of New Lambton Public School at their old home. The Parents and Citizens' Association proposes to have a roll book completed withl the autographs of past and present pupils and to preserve it as an historical record of the school. "
"Many former pupils returned today to participate in the Back to New Lambton School celebrations arranged by the P. and C. Association to mark the reopening of the school after military occupation."
"The boys and girls returned to the school in February of last year, the boys using their own department and the girls the infants' department, while the girls' school was being renovated. The girls returned to their school at tthe end of last year, but the infants remained at Payne's Paddock until this week, when the renovations to the infants' department were completed."
"The new primary school at New Lambton South (Payne's Paddock) ... was opened yesterday for the enrolment of pupils. The buildings, which are of brick, contain 16 class rooms, a special room for a school library, headmaster's and headmistress's offices, staff rooms, special sheds for luncheon for the children, bicycle racks and a separate brick tuck shop ... there was already an enrolment of 360 pupils."
In my historical researches lately I’ve been noticing how fluid the the street names were, with some streets having multiple spellings (Dickson/Dixon) and some street names morphing over time. Robert How, an investor in the Scottish Australian Mining Company had a street named after him, but the street name somehow acquired a trailing “e” to become “Howe Street”.
The mystery of the extra “e” was solved when I noticed that “Wye Street” was originally called “Wyee Street”. It seems that shifty “e” just wandered in from the neighbouring street and took up residence! If not for the peripatetic positioning of that vagrant vowel the street sign would look like this …
For quite some time as I researched Lambton history, I’ve come across references to “Tharwa Road”, which no longer exists in Lambton. I wondered whether it was a mis-spelling or variant of “Tathra Road”. Recently while perusing old maps I discovered that a 1906 real estate poster map shows that “Tharwa Road” used to be the section of Wallarah Road north of Womboin Road.
Tharwa Road, Lambton. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
It made sense that the road had two names, for they began as two completely separate roads divided by the Lambton colliery railway. Each road was also in a different council area – Tharwa Road in the Lambton municipality, Wallarah Road in the New Lambton municipality.
As early as 1926, residents of East Lambton were agitating to have the roads connected to make a thoroughfare to New Lambton. The joining of the roads appears to have happened around 1941, with The Newcastle Sun reporting on 11 Feb 1941 …
It was decided to ask the Newcastle Council to attend to … the renumbering of Wallarah Road, which has now been extended to include Tharwa Road.
New Lambton Public School published a booklet in 1980 to celebrate their centenary. Although this book contains much useful information, it also contains a number of errors, which I document below. In doing so, I’m not intending to pass judgement on the authors of the booklet, who in 1980 did not have access to the many online resources available to me today. My intention here is simply to correct the record where I can.
The originally proposed site
The booklet quite correctly states that “The first site chosen was on ground owned by the New Lambton colliery.” This means that the site was south of Russell Rd, that road being the border between New Lambton and Lambton coal leases. The centenary booklet then states that the proposed site was “around the south-eastern section of St James Rd.” I have found no evidence to support that statement. Instead, we know that:
In December 1875 Alexander Brown agreed to donate “a splendid site on the side of the hill near to the Wesleyan Church.”
I can only guess that the authors of the centenary booklet incorrectly assumed that the eventual site for New Lambton South Public School (opened 1944) was the originally proposed site for the New Lambton school.
“New Lambton came into being in 1867”. The correct year is 1868.
The statement that the Lambton colliery railway “carried the coal to the wharves via ‘Betty Bun’s Crossing” is incorrect. Betty Bunn’s crossing was on the Waratah coal company’s railway.
The statement that the New Lambton colliery railway went “across New Lambton Park to join the line from Lambton pit” is incorrect. The line actually curved to the right before the Lambton line, and was a separate line all the way in to its junction with the great northern railway.
The statement that “New Lambton mine opened late in 1867” is somewhat misleading. In 1867 James and Alexander Brown opened up a new pit in their 280 acre “Dog and Rat” lease east of Lambton, and called it “The New Lambton Coal Pit”. The pit they sunk in the suburb of New Lambton wasn’t opened until 1868.
The photo of the 1888 New Lambton Colliery Strike is somewhat misleading in that it doesn’t identify that this strike took place at the New Lambton C pit, which is actually in Adamstown.
The booklet correctly states that “many smaller [coal mining] operations, often employing two or three men, were common around the turn of the century” and in the next sentence it lists some of the names of the pits. Two of the names mentioned were not small pits. Mosquito pit was part of Lambton colliery, and Dog and Rat pit was operated by the Brown’s mining company.
There is a photo captioned “The first steam tram to Lambton 1891”. The photo might be from 1891, but its not the first steam tram, as the tram line opened in 1887.
There is a photo captioned “1912 Aldermen New Lambton Council”. The list of names given does not correspond the alderman from that year. The list appears to match more closely with the alderman in 1914-1915. A number of the names are mis-spelled – “Gourd” should be “Goad”, “Jordon” should be “Jordan”
The map in the booklet contains a number of errors, some minor, and some nonsensical.
“Rasberry Gully” is mis-spelled – it should be “Raspberry Gully”.
The rail line to Raspberry Gully is marked as the “Waratah” pit, whereas it should be “South Waratah” pit.
“Betty Bun’s” crossing is mis-spelled. It should be “Betty Bunn’s” crossing.
The location marked for “Betty Bunn’s Crossing” at the intersection of Griffiths and Turton Roads is incorrect. The actual location was further to the west, at the intersection of Acacia St and Griffiths Rd. This was the point where the road between Lambton and Waratah townships crossed the Waratah Coal Company’s railway.
Carrington Parade is shown as a continuous street, instead of split into two disconnected sections.
The New Lambton colliery railway is shown as joining on to the Lambton colliery railway near Womboin Road. Competition between the collieries meant that sharing of rail lines was inconceivable. The New Lambton railway actually traversed the area now occupied by the sporting fields and Hunter stadium, and went all the way in to a junction on the great northern rail line.
The map maker has assumed that the present day “Railway Rd” matches the alignment of the original Lambton colliery railway. This has resulted in a railway course with an impossible right angle bend. The railway actually ran in a fairly straight line slightly to the north of Railway Rd.